It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll, or get to California’s third highest peak White Mountain, it is especially a long trip when you are a plus sized hiker with bad knees, but in the end it was worth every second. I you have read our blog posts before you are familiar with our with our three day weekend runs to the Owens Valley one of our favorite stomping grounds filled with great people and adventures. That being said I will get to the meat and potatoes of this trip in particular.
We pulled into the parking lot at two am, a parking lot sitting close to 12,000 feet so the air is thin and was made thinner by the twenty degree weather, we came prepared but jumping from the truck to the elements is never fun. Camp was simple and thrown together quickly and by camp grabbing threes hours of sleep in a swept parking lot. We were up at first light beating the sunrise and took our time getting ready making coffee and feed the Rob (this is a thing and they get hangry when not fed regularly). Stepping off we were in a good mood and ready for a fourteen mile day hike to over fourteen thousand feet.
The road to the research station was clear and we made great time to said research station but then came the realization that we were smart to pack our snow gear. We had done this trip before in the late summer but never this early so we had put a decent amount of research into this time of year especially on the heels of El Nino (Spanish for the Nino). There was snow and ice everywhere and micro spikes and trekking poles made the slick trail passable. When we had that under control the wind was a constant battle, yeah imagine that wind swept mountains who would have thought haha. But for all the environmental challenges we had a “to die for” view every step of the way.
We made great time and had a few awesome photo ops until the hill, there are actually two “hills” one to mess with your head with steady elevation gain over a rough snow covered jeep trail and then the couple hundred feet of loss to begin the second hill or the actual accent to the peek. This was my roughest part of the day.
The sun had been up for a few ours and the snow and ice melted creating a slush to trudge through or mud to trudge through. None of this was really bad and my two companions did great, I was slowed down but still was able to make forward progress. What really sucked was the accent towards the summit we were able to cut trail over the snow but is was just as difficult for me to do, that than to try to find the trail which was a mental chore on top of keeping going. This was my grumpy time. Glad I had my spikes wish I had my snow shoes for this instance (on the other hand the weight was not worth it to bring them so six of one half a dozen right). By the time I reached William and Rob they had made the determination that the trail was unstable and not safe or worth going any further. It was a little anti climatic being two hundred and fifty wards from the summit, we could see the building and everything thing but a recurring theme with us has been Safety over Summit. Now the trip back was a different story as I was feeling the effects of the altitude and having been sick two weeks before was definitely feeling it. I had the opportunity to glasaide a few hundred feet and enjoyed that but the trip back up the first hill was brutal for me. The trip down had me walking a few steps then having to take a break catch my breath and resume. I’m telling you this not because I am trying to church up the trip but more to share some lessons learned.
My first lesson is just because you have done something before don’t expect to do it again cold. The last time I did it was a different time of year and the weather conditions where totally different, even with doing some research it made for another aspect to contend with. Another consideration is that I am no longer a twenty something year old Marine, and my body knows it. I was better prepared the last time I had done this trip with trips to San Gorgonio and San Jacinto, twelve and ten thousand foot peaks (respectively) located in Southern California. Those trips helped to prep me unlike my lower altitude Southern California hikes in preparation for this trip. I look at it this way if you can learn and come down safely then it was not a wash and it reminded me of thins I needed to work on for the next trip involving this terrain.
This also was not to say this trip was not without good news too, my feet did not fall off like last time (thanks again for the boots Rob). We also made great time compared to our last trip and actually where able to come down with sunlight and got the opportunity to take in the beauty of the bristle cone forest. Speaking of coming down the mountain on the map there is a road that will take you directly into Bishop where we had a hotel locked on (another great lesson learned). The road says four wheel drive only which we had so we were all like “ok”. It was not “ok” the road was tight steep and dangerous. Don’t take it, it sucks. Now we know how to wheel and if we were fresh in a jeep maybe, but save yourself the headache and go back the way you came.
Suffice to say we made it and with time to spare. We got into Bishop checked into our room at the fabulous La Quinta Inn. Good travel tip there is a bowling alley behind the hotel and the restaurant and service is great and worth checking out. The next day was an awesome day of adventuring around bouldering and checking out local attractions but that’s another blog post until then thanks for checking us out and following our adventures and stay tuned for the next time we “Get the Fox Out There”!